7 Things Great Leaders Do: Advice For Today’s Young Leaders

Recently I was asked to speak to a local youth leadership program on — well, it makes sense — leadership. That’s what they are attempting to learn.

I’ve led in the business world, elected office, and now in ministry – and on dozens of non-profit boards. Along the way I’ve observed a few things about leadership.

And, some great leaders have appeared along the way.

I culled together 7 things I’ve observed and shared with the group things I felt they should know.

Here are 7 things great leaders do:

Great leaders never quit learning.

Never. So, if you want to be a great leader. Systematize your learning. Read one chapter a day that you don’t have to read. Never attend a meeting without some way to take notes. That may sound trivial. It’s not. It helps you remember but it also communicates you care about what is being discussed.

Side note: If you take notes on your electronic device (phone), be sure to tell people that’s what you are doing. They’ll assume you’re not paying attention.

Fact is, we gather far more information than we can retain. Get a system to help you keep up with the information that comes your way. I use Evernote. Find what works for you.

As soon as you think you already know what the teacher, professor, or someone older than you is talking about you’ve mentally closed your mind to learning anything new. I’ve got 3 post high school degrees and that’s about enough education to convince me I don’t know everything.

Great leaders never underestimate a connection.

When someone introduces you to someone, consider it a high compliment. You’ll be surprised how often these relationships will come back around and work for good. Never burn a bridge. Be careful what you place on social media. Those are future connections. And, Respect your elders. Showing respect to people older than you now will ensure you receive natural respect from others when you’re the elder in the relationship.

Great leaders have great courage.

The fact is, if you’re a leader, you’ll not always know what to do. Seldom will you be 100% certain. The best leader is not always the smartest in the room. In fact, the best leaders I know surround themselves with people smarter than them. The best leader isn’t the most outgoing or the most extroverted. I’m perhaps one of the more introverted people in the room, but on Sundays, I appear otherwise.

The best leader is usually the one who is willing to lead others places they aren’t willing to go on their own. The one who has the courage to face the risks of the unknown.

Great leaders are motivated to lead for the good of others, not for personal recognition.

As a leader, you’ll many times feel under-appreciated. This is so huge — especially for your generation. You’ve been accustomed to rewards for achievement. Life isn’t always like that. There will be lots of things you do that no one will notice. Great things. Trophy-deserving things — and people will act — it will seem at times — like no one noticed and no one cares.

And, that may not be true. They may simply not have taken the time to let you know what an impact you had on them. Eventually we have to find our reward in the knowledge and personal satisfaction of “I did the right thing” as much, if not more, than the public recognition of that work.

Great leaders learn the words of successful leadership early.

The words of a leader carry great weight. If a leader makes it “my” team no one will buy-in to the team except the leader. But, then is that person really a leader?

Anyone can be a boss. To be a great leader your words should always be inclusive rather than exclusive. Great leaders know they can’t get there on their own so they become a fan of words like “we”, “us” and “ours”. They don’t brag on themselves they brag on their team.

The more you include people, the more they’ll feel included (see how simple this is) and they’ll be more likely to suffer with you for the win. Be an encourager — invest in others — and people are more likely to follow you.

Great leaders know that success often starts with humble beginnings.

Never underestimate the power of a moment.

All of the best things in life happened in a moment.
· A wedding proposal.
· A child is born.
· A college scholarship award is received in the mail.

We often look for the grandiose occasions, but the seemingly smallest moments can often have the biggest long-term impact. Don’t be afraid of starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. That’s still a viable option — and the reward feels greater when you built it the hard way.

Great leaders learn to discipline themselves to decompress.

It’s not usually built-in to the system. No one makes you rest.

During the busy seasons of life — when there’s plenty of work to do and time is of the essence — which is most of our life if we set out to be leaders, you’ll have to discipline yourself.

· To re-calibrate.
· Refocus.
· Rediscover the passion that once fueled you.
· Re-connect, if needed, to those you love.
· To meditate, read, play tennis or golf, go for a run.

You have to discipline for that. And, I’ve learned it’s life-essential.

Our bodies are designed, I believe created, to need rest. Sometimes the best thing you can do when you’re stressed with school is to go for a walk. Never neglect your soul – it will protect you and help you sustain for the long-term – and help you finish well.

These are obviously random — but in my life they’ve become realities.

Soak up leadership principles. Keep learning from others. Whatever field of work you choose, the world is still in need of great leaders.

10 Reasons to Consider Church Revitalization — Even Over Church Planting

I meet with young church planters frequently. I hope that continues. We had great experiences in two successful church plants and it’s certainly in my heart. Currently we are working to plant churches in Chicago. I love the energy of planting. We need lots of new churches.

In this season of my life, God has called me into revitalization. We are positioning an older, established church, that was once in decline, to grow again. And, it’s been amazing – and challenging – and rewarding – and hard.

God began to encourage my heart towards revitalization when I considered my home church – the one where I served in lay leadership until I was called into ministry late in my 30’s. That church introduced me to Christ, help me grow, and I wouldn’t be in ministry today without them.

But, that church has seen better days. (Thankfully, they are in revitalization now and a friend of mine pastors there.) What will become of the established church? That was a burning question on my heart and God lined my heart up with a church in need of revitalization.

Now, after the experience of the last few years, when I meet with church planters, I often encourage them to consider church revitalization. I realize church revitalization doesn’t have all the attraction of church planting. I left behind my skinny jeans to enter church revitalization. And all God’s people said amen. But, here’s the thing: the attraction in church revitalization is in the mission. And, that’s hopefully the same reason anyone enters church planting.

Here are 10 reasons to consider church revitalization – even over church planting:

You love the thought of restoring history. Our church is over 100 years old. Wouldn’t it be a shame to see that history come to an end – if we can reverse the decline?

You are ready to go to work now. There are far more opportunities in church revitalization. I read that near 90% of established churches are in decline or plateaued. There’s work to be done immediately.

You like having an established base of financial support. The good thing about many established churches is that they have loyal supporters. Sometimes those are the ones holding out until the doors are closed – they never want to change, but many times those people are just waiting for leadership to take them somewhere better than where they are today.

You love inter-generational ministry. In an established church, if you start to reach younger people, you’ll see a blending of generations. That’s a beautiful experience. It’s been one of our favorites in ministry. And, personally, I think it’s healthy and a very Biblical model of church.

You like a challenge. I didn’t put this as my number one, but don’t be misled. You will face opposition if you try to change things from where people are comfortable. You don’t face that same challenge in a church plant. But, you didn’t get into ministry expecting it to be easy did you? You agreed to walk by faith, right? And, you’ll have that opportunity in church revitalization. Everyday.

You won’t run from every conflict. You mustn’t. You must stay the good course. The mission is too vital.

You enjoy healthy structure. Granted, it might not be healthy, but you’ll find structure. And, as long as you’re not doing away with structure completely, which isn’t healthy anyway – you can usually tweak structure to be healthy again.

You are Kingdom-minded. You see the bigger picture. There are more Kingdom dollars being under-utilized in stagnant churches than may ever be invested in church planting. What are we going to do about it? If you’d like to know the answer – maybe you’re a candidate for revitalization.

You can endure a long-term approach. It likely won’t happen immediately. In church planting, we could change in a weekend. That’s not necessarily true in the established church. There are many things that can happen immediately. Certainly we saw some immediate, very positive changes and the church began to grow quickly. But, the best changes have taken time, but they have paid off dramatically because of our more methodical approach.

You truly love the local church. I didn’t love everything about the church I came to pastor – or the established church I attended all my life until surrendering to ministry. But, I truly love the local church. Enough that I’d be willing to invest energies in trying to save one.

Let me be honest. Some churches can’t be – and may not need to be – saved. There, I said that. They’ve been toxic since they began running off pastors so a few families can remain in control. They aren’t interested in reaching a lost world. They are looking for a comfortable place to hang out with people just like them.

But, there are so many churches who are ready to grow again with the right pastoral leadership. And, I encourage some of our young, eager, pastors – even some who may be considering church planting – to consider allowing God to use you in revitalizing an established church.

5 Words of Encouragement to the Church Planter or Young Leader

Recently I was able to share some encouragement with church planters in Chicago. Having been a planter twice, I understand the unique challenges facing planters. They are constantly struggling with leadership issues, finances and simply knowing what to do next.

I get it. Most of what I know now came from experience and the wisdom of others.

Many of the suggestions I shared are suitable for young leaders in any field.

Here are 5 words of encouragement:

The more specific you are the more we can help. Established churches have systems. Processes. Committees. Structure. Too much you might say and that’s why you’re planting. But we have budgets that have likely been approved long in advance. The more detailed you can be with what you need the easier it is to meet the need. Otherwise, it seems overwhelming. And, don’t be afraid to talk about money. Everyone knows you need it. Just don’t be surprised if help is more readily available in other ways.

Surround yourself with some encouragers. Make sure you have people who speak regularly into your life. People outside the work you’re doing. Some days they’ll keep you going.

Seek your affirmation among the people God sent you to minister to. Great advice someone gave me. You’ll many times feel under-appreciated. You may not feel you’re doing any good. You’ll second-guess yourself and your calling. Get back into helping the hurting people — the work, whatever it is — God called you to. Be recharged.

Everything great starts with a humble beginning. Either in your personal humility or the humble beginnings of your work. Take your pick. We all want the grand and instant success. That’s seldom the reality. Those who launch big often had enormous stories of previously being humbled. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah‬ ‭4‬:‭10

Protect your soul – and your marriage. You have to discipline to decompress. Paraphrase of Jesus: “Come to me all who are stretched, burnt-out, weary and heavy-burdened – I will give you refreshment for your soul. Live this truth daily. Put it as a regular practice of your life.

God bless you planter. Leader. Friend.

7 Suggestions for Planting a Church or Revitalizing in a New Community

I am consistently asked for suggestions I have for moving to another city to plant a church or revitalize a church.

I planted once in my hometown, so I am very familiar with that community, but I also planted a church in a city in which I didn’t know anyone well, so I have some experience in that area too. In my present church, I moved to a city where I knew only one other couple.

Recently someone who was about to move to a new city to minister asked a very good specific question.

What advice would you give me that people don’t always give?

Good question. It made me think. I don’t know that any of these are original, but I don’t hear them talked about as much as other suggestions.

And, I think the things I would do would be the same in any ministry position.

Here are 7 suggestions for moving to another community to minister:

Have a prayer team – There should be a group of people praying for this community, the church, and the leaders on a daily basis. I have a personal prayer team and organize teams to pray for special events. Bathe every move in prayer.

Learn the culture – Every city and every group of people have their own unique identity. What matter’s most? What do they celebrate? Where do people live and play? What do they do for fun? What’s their unique language? What are the traditions unique to this area? What history do they value most? You’ll have to ask lots of questions and observe.

Learn the market – Is the community in a growth mode or a declining mode? What’s the quality of the school system? If you’re planting, are schools an option for a building? What are the major problems, concerns and needs of the community? Who are the leading employers? What are the demographics? How would a church address some of the issues? These matter for numerous reasons, but mainly it will impact the people you are trying to reach.

To learn these things I try to meet with the highest level leader I can in each area of interest – Schools, city government, police, business community, etc.

Learn the competition – Before you get too excited – it’s not other churches. It’s anything that has the people’s attention you are trying to reach besides a church. Sunday sports events. Major festivals. Community traditions.

Support the Community – Immediately find ways to get personally involved in the community with volunteer investment. That could be through the Chamber of Commerce, schools, festivals, etc. Give back. Believe it or not, that gets attention. Currently, we volunteer several places around town, including at our local visitor’s center. And, if you really want to show you love the community support the sports teams they support.

Develop patience – It is harder than you think it will be. It just is. Church planting, church revitalization – really any ministry – takes a tremendous toll on you physically, mentally and even spiritually. It doesn’t happen overnight. Prepare for the journey. Commit to the change you bring to the ministry – even knowing how difficult it might be at times.

Protect your family – Just as church plants are stressful on the planter, they are equally challenging for the planter’s family. That may even be more true in revitalization. And, it’s true in all ministry. These issues are multiplied because of relocation, since much of their support system is being replaced. Protect your family by discipling your time and not losing them as your primary focus. As much as possible, involve them in the work so they understand it’s value and get to share in the rewards. Protect your personal down time and your soul. Don’t burn out by trying to do too much too soon.

Ministry is tough, but like all actions of faith and obedience, God uses the sacrifices to reach hurting people and change their life for His glory. Thanks for Kingdom-building.

7 of the Most Dangerous Church Cultures I’ve Observed

I was talking with a couple of pastors about leading in church revitalization and growth. Both of these pastors are seasoned church leaders – having far more experience in total than I have in vocational ministry.

Mostly I listened to their stories. Both are currently in difficult pastorates. One of them serves in a church that has a history of very short-term pastorates. The other is in a church that has seen a roller coaster trend in church attendance – every time they get in a season of growth its followed by a season of decline – sometimes rapid decline.

Frankly, I prefer to have conversations about opportunities and possibilities than about challenges and frustrations. But, get a few pastors in the room and there will be some war stories. Leading towards health in a church can be a battle sometimes.

Just like it’s been said numerous times – leading people is easy if it wasn’t for the people.

I tried to encourage them in their call and offered a few suggestions for them in their current situations. But, the conversation stayed on my mind for days afterwards.

A few days after this conversation, I was talking with another pastor friend reflecting on what I had heard in the previous conversation. I didn’t share names or specific situations, but it led us to a discussion about church cultures.

Every church has its own culture.

Both of the pastors in the original conversation just seemed to find themselves in some very bad church cultures.

I’ve seen lots of different cultures while consulting and working with churches for over a decade.

Regardless of what some believe – there are some healthy churches.

And, there are some who are not so healthy.

It’s always breaks my heart to encounter a church that is ready to implode. Frankly, some churches live in that tension continually. Some cultures are dangerous – toxic even.

Why do some churches seem to have such a hard time keeping church staff for any significant length of time? It usually has something to do with the culture of the church.

Why are some churches more resistant to change than others? It will almost always reflect back to the culture of the church.

Why do some churches have a history of church splits? Culture.

This friend in the second conversation said to me, “There’s a blog post for you. You need to talk about some of those dangerous cultures.”

Sadly, according to numerous statistics, more churches are in decline or have plateaued than are growing. Certainly not all growing churches are healthy. I would never define a “healthy” church exclusively as growing church. I do believe, however, most healthy churches will eventually grow.

Some of that health in a church depends on the culture of the church. How do people respond to church leadership? How do they respond to each other? How do they react to change? How are decisions made? What upsets people most? What is the atmosphere — the mood — of the church during the week and on Sunday? How does the church treat vocational staff?

All those are usually relative to and indicative of church culture.

So, I decided to post about some of the more dangerous church cultures I have observed. Most likely you’ll have some of your own to share.

Here are 7 of the most dangerous church cultures:

Selfish – Some churches are filled with people who just think they have to have it their way. And they fold her hands – and sometimes hold their money – until they get it.

Prideful – This is a culture that is proud of their heritage – which is a good thing – but is resting on their laurels. They refuse to realize it’s no longer the “good ole days”. Their pride keeps in the past keeps them from embracing the future. They resist any ideas that are different from the way things have always been done.

Rigid – A rigid culture would never kill something – even if it isn’t working. These churches do tradition well. They don’t do change well. Try to change – and it’ll be the death of you.

Cliquish – I’ve heard this from so many people who felt they just couldn’t break into the already established groups within the church. In this culture, it takes years for people to feel included, find a place of service, or begin to lose the “new person” label.

Bullying – Sometimes this is disguised and called church discipline, but in some of the stories I’ve heard I would tend to call it legalistic. If it’s a “one strike you’re out” culture or people are made to feel they can’t be real about their struggles for fear of retribution – the picture of grace that Christ died on the cross to provide is diminished. People are encouraged to put on masks to hide their struggles.

Stingy – In this culture, there is a greater concern that the balance sheet look attractive than meeting the needs that God brings their way. This church rarely walks by faith because that seems too irresponsible.

Depraved – This one may in some ways be a summary of the previous six — because there is sin in all of these cultures — but I wanted to expose it on it’s own. If the Bible is left in the rack attached to the pew and no longer the foundation guide for the church – the culture will obviously suffer. Church culture can begin to decay whenever the focus is more on things like money, programs, buildings, even worship style – as good as all of those can be – rather than on living our lives as children of God for the glory of God. Whatever distracts us from the very core of the church – our Gospel mission and calling – will injure our church culture.

Those are from my observations. And, I think we must be aware of them if we want to lead our churches to health.

What dangerous cultures have you seen?

I should mention again, especially to those outside the church, those who have experienced pain from these type churches, or those entering into the ministry. There are healthy churches. There are healthy church cultures. There are no perfect churches, but there are some who have staff with long tenures, where change is manageable and where people truly live out the Biblical model of church.

Please don’t read this as a slam against the church. As someone who loves the local church, I hope to lend help through this blog in the majority of posts I share. In other posts I try to expand on thoughts and experience I have in helping to change church cultures.

10 Ways to Be a Good Follower

I have a strong desire to help improve the quality of leadership in churches and ministries, especially among the next generation of Christian leaders. My youngest son, Nate, who has already proven to be a great leader in the environments where he’s served, has consistently encouraged me over the years I need to develop good followers, along with developing good leaders.

He’s right.

We aren’t all called to be leaders, although I have a contention that we are all leaders in some environment in our life, even if it’s self leadership. The point is clear though, not all of us will lead at the same level. Equally true is it is difficult to be a good leader without good followers – maybe impossible.

I’ve listed qualities of good leaders in several posts. I suppose there is room for a companion post. So, I set out to make a new list.

Granted, these are important to me as a leader. You may have your own list. In fact, I’ll welcome you to share your thoughts on characteristics of a good follower in the comments.

Here are 10 ways to be a good follower:

Help me lead better

You see things I don’t see. You hear things I don’t hear. You have experiences I don’t have. Help me be a better leader in the areas where I may not have the access to information you do. I love when the children’s ministry, for example, alerts me of people who are hitting home runs in their area so I can personally thank them. I’ve made some great connections this way. I should be recognizing individual contributions anyway and this helps me do that more often. Help your leader do his or her job better. Good followers find ways to make the leader better.

Do what you commit to do

One of the most frustrating things for a leader is to assign a task, practice good delegation, and then watch the ball drop because the person didn’t follow through on what they said they would. It could be an issue of not having the right support, resources or know how, or it could be the person doesn’t know how to say “No”, but good followers find a way to get the task completed, whether by personally doing it or through further delegation. If you aren’t going to complete it, or if you find out along the way you may not, let me know in plenty of time to offer help or find someone who can.

Don’t commit if you won’t put your heart into it

If the leader strives to be a good leader, then he or she wants the task completed well. That won’t happen with half-hearted devotion. Good followers give their best effort towards completing the work assigned to them, knowing it reflects not only their efforts, but the efforts of the leader and the entire team. We need passion from those who follow leadership.

Pray for me

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, some days I have none. I sometimes wonder why God called me to be the leader. I rely on the prayers of others, especially from those I am attempting to lead.

Complete my shortcomings

The reason we are a team is because you have skills I don’t have. To be a good follower means you willingly come along side me to make the team better, bringing insights, talents and resources I can’t produce without you. Don’t get frustrated at something I may not understand or be gifted at doing — or you have to show me how to do — but realize this is one way God is using you on the team.

Respect me

There will be days when I’m not respectable, but I do hold the responsibility to lead, so encourage me when you can. Chances are I’ll continue to improve if I am led to believe I am doing good work. In public settings, even when you don’t necessarily agree with my decisions, honor me until you have a chance to challenge me privately.

Love the vision

Genuinely love the vision of the team. You’ll work hardest in those areas for which you have passion. Ask God to give you a burning desire to see the vision succeed, then become a contagious advocate of that vision. 

Be prepared

When bringing an issue to me for a decision, do your homework and have as much information as possible. Know the positives and negatives, how much it will cost, and who the major players are in the decision. Be ready to open to having your idea challenged in order to make it better. I also believe in consensus building and a team spirit and don’t want to make all the decisions, so it’s probably wise to have a solution or two in mind to suggest should you be asked.

Stay healthy

I admit, sometimes I run at too fast a pace. I believe a healthy organization is a growing organization, which requires a lot of energy. I also think we are doing Kingdom work, which is of utmost and urgent importance. You can’t be as effective on the team if you are unhealthy physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. You can’t always control these areas and life has a way of disrupting each of them, but as much as it depends on you, remain a healthy follower.

Leave when it’s time

I realize this is a hard word, but when you can no longer support the vision or my leadership, instead of causing disruption on the team, leave gracefully. If the problem is me, certainly work through the appropriate channels to address my leadership, but if the problem is simply differences of opinion, or something new God is doing in your heart, or you just don’t love it anymore and can’t get it back, don’t stay when you cease being helpful to the team. (Never simply stay for a paycheck.) God may even be using your frustration to stir something new in your heart.

What else would you add? What makes a good follower?

7 Times I Submit to People I Lead

I’m the leader.

Are you impressed?

I’m the guy others report to each day.

Impressed some more?

Don’t be. It just means I have a lot of heartburn and more gray hair than most people my age.

Seriously, I think we sometimes take leadership too seriously. We think without the leader nothing good can happen on a team. Not true.

Don’t misunderstand. We need good leadership. I might even say without leadership – in a big picture perspective – nothing of great value ever happens. I spend a bulk of this blog trying to speak into the practice of good leadership.

But, as much as leadership is important, without good followers nothing of great value ever happens. (Do you see what I did there?)

Good leadership understands this reality and puts it into practice.

So, at times, really many times, I submit my authority to people who are supposedly looking to me for leadership. I let others lead me.

Here are 7 times I submit to people I lead:

When I have no strong feeling.

If nothing inside of me says this is wrong or I have no real opinion about it, then I yield to this on the team who have a strong passion. I trust their gut.

When they know more than I do.

And, this happens more than you could imagine. I try to surround myself with people smarter than me about different areas. Why would I not rely on them for the expertise they have, which I don’t have?

When I want to give them an opportunity.

Now let’s be honest. It could be an opportunity to fail. This may be why some leaders never delegate authority. But, sometimes the only way we learn is by trying and falling short. Some of the best discoveries are learned this way.

When they have thought about it more than I have.

There are so many things which happen within our church (and probably your church or organization) where I simply do not have the time or the margin to commit to processing. I have to trust people. Sometimes, I have to yield to other people because they have more time investment in an issue than I do.

When they have to live with the consequences.

If it is more about their individual area of ministry and doesn’t impact other areas of the church then I am more likely to delegate authority to them.

When I’m already overwhelmed.

To be effective as a leader – and to last for the long haul – I need to know I can only do what I can do. I have to trust the people God has allowed me to surround myself with with what they can do. And, I know I need their help to help me prioritize my best efforts towards things only I can do.

Whenever I can.

Seriously. Good leadership involves empowerment. It’s delegating authority and allowing people to grow in their responsibility. So, when I have the opportunity, I’ll let people make decisions without my input.

It’s important to understand, as a leader I’m delegating my authority, but I’m not relegating my authority. I’m not diminishing the fact I am the senior leader and ultimately responsible for the overall vision and direction of our church. (Under God’s authority, of course.) My team needs to know they are not alone. I will support them in the decisions they make.

4 Thoughts On Finding a Mentor

I have had many mentors who have invested deeply in my life. I am who I am partly because of the intentionality of others pouring into my life. They have made me a better leader, better husband, father, friend, and person.

One of my more recent mentors was a godly businessman who agreed to meet with me periodically. He didn’t even think he had anything to offer me, but as I observed his life and ways I knew he did. He was twenty plus years older than me, had been extremely successful, and his leadership skills were off the charts. So, of course, I could learn from him. And, I did.

One of the more frequent questions I receive is how do I find this kind of mentor?

Well, I think they are all around, but if you want to find a mentor, you’ll have to be intentional.

Here are a few things to consider:

Observe people – Who are people already in your life? You go to church with them? You see them in business or social circles? They are in a civic club you attend? They work out at your gym? Most likely you have potential mentors around you if you are consciously looking for them.

A word to my pastor friends. I do not believe every mentor in your life has to be another pastor. We may be thinking too highly of our profession if we can’t learn leadership (or life) principles from those in secular positions. Obviously, we should choose mentors who have high character and integrity, but we can learn from those who are not in ministry. Some of the godliest people I know are in the business world – and I’m glad they are – and I can learn from them.

Find someone with qualities you aspire to have. Think of an area where you feel you need to grow and look for people who seem to have excelled in those areas. In my experience, they will often share with you times of difficulty in getting to where they are today. You’ll learn from their challenges.

I once recruited a mentor simply because he was one of the most humble people I had ever met. It was a quality I admired and wanted to emulate in my life. I knew I could become proud if I’m not careful and I had observed him to be both successful and humble. And, that’s what I told him in our initial lunch meeting together. I wanted to hang out with him because I had observed him to be both. Simple. Honest. And, it proved to be effective. This man and I no longer live in the same city and yet he continues to check on me periodically and every time he encourages me.

Ask them to meet with you. I usually find a hesitation in people in making the first ask, but equally true has been how receptive people seem to be willing to meet with me when I do. This obviously needs to be reasonable. I probably shouldn’t expect Bill Hybels to mentor me, but there are plenty of pastors (and those who are not pastors) who have much for me to learn if I will make the ask.

If it seems to go well on the “first date”, ask them to meet with you periodically. It doesn’t have to be often. It could be every quarter or every six months. You’ll learn valuable life lessons from them each time you meet.

Know – in a general sense – what you want to learn from this person, but then each time you get together come with questions for the person. You do the work to prepare for meetings unless the person takes this initiative. Most mentors will not feel they know how to mentor you. And, that’s okay, you can take the pressure off of them simply by having good questions, which glean from their experience in whatever area you are trying to grow.

It’s okay to move on when it’s time. This doesn’t have to be a lifetime arrangement. It could be. I have a few mentors who have been in my life for 25 years or more. I don’t speak to them often, but they remain available to me and still periodically invest in my life. I also have had some mentors who were there for a season of my life. When I began to enter the world of adult parenting I had a mentor who walked through how things would be different for Cheryl and me and how I would relate to our sons. I have even been mentored through a change I was leading and my mentor and I only met one time.

I think we over-complicate the subject when we put too many parameters around what a mentoring relationship looks like. It can be a fairly simple process. There’s something you want to learn, find people who seem to have already learned it, meet with them and soak in their experiences, and then repeat often.

If you are serious about being mentored you’ll look for opportunities to allow people to speak into your life. You’ll have many mentors. And, your life will be richer.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

7 Reasons People Who Could Be Leading Aren’t

We need leaders. When Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few…” I’m confident some of those workers should be leaders of other workers. Throughout the Scriptures God used men and women to lead others to accomplish great things – all to His glory.

But, I’m equally convinced, just as there are not enough people working who should be working – some of the workers who should be leading are not leading.

Why?

7 reasons people are not leading who could be:

They weren’t ever willing to face their fears.

Fear failure, fear of rejection, and the fear of the unknown are very real fears. But, fear is an emotion – not necessarily based on truth. Faith is a substance based on a certain – though unseen reality.

They never had the self-confidence to allow people to follow.

I know so many people who sit on the sidelines, even though people believe in them, but they just don’t believe in themselves.

They felt it was self-serving to step into the role of leadership.

One of my new favorite sayings is “Don’t trip over your own humility by refusing to do the right thing.” Yes, leaders can be in the center of attention, and some people are too “humble” to step into that role, but in the meantime, we are missing your leadership.

They waited for someone else to do it.

They had a call – or, at least, they knew what needed to be done, and they could have taken the initiative and made it work, but they never did. Maybe they are hoping and waiting for someone else to make the move.

They tried once – it didn’t work – and they gave up too soon.

Failure is a part of leadership. Certainly it is a part of maturing as a leader. If you give up after the first try you miss out on some of the best leadership development available.

They couldn’t find their place, they didn’t make one, and no one made it for them.

Find something to lead! The world is full of problems. Choose one you are passionate about and start leading. We need you! And, if you see someone with leadership abilities – make the ask! Plug them into leadership.

They thought they didn’t know how to lead.

I’ve been a student of leadership for over 20 years – in leadership positions for over 30 years – and my answer to that one is simple. Who does know how to lead? Sure, there are skills to be acquired, leadership is an art to be shaped, but leadership is new every morning, because there world is ever changing. Leadership involves people. When we can completely figure them out – we can completely figure out leadership. Until then watch, listen, read, learn, ask questions. Leaders are all around you. You can learn some skills of leadership if you are teachable. The best leaders are still learning how to lead.

Are any of these the reason you’re not currently leading, but you know you should be?

7 Times When It is Not A Good Time To Change

I’ve never been a proponent of the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Sometimes you need a change and nothing is “broke”. It just isn’t as good as it could be, it’s keeping other things from being better, or it’s soon going to be broke unless you change.

But, there are times not to change – certainly when you are not ready for the change.

Here are 7 times not to change:

When there isn’t a compelling purpose

There should always be a why. It might be as simple as if you don’t change you’re going to be bored out of your mind – but have a reason before you change.

When there are no good leaders behind it

You need people who buy into the change. If a change has value you can usually find supporters. They may be few. They may do nothing more than speak up for the change, but if no one can get excited about the change, you probably need to raise up some supporters before moving forward. (There are rare exceptions to this one, but again, they are rare.)

When you haven’t defined a win

Changing before you know what success looks like will keep you running in a lot of ineffective directions without much progress.

When the loss is more expensive than the win

Sometimes the cost just isn’t worth it. You can’t justify the people and resource expense for the potential return.

When the leader isn’t motivated

There are times to wait if senior leadership can’t get excited or at least support the change if push back develops. Eventually, without their support, you’ll be less likely to experience sustaining, successful change.

When too many other things are changing

Any organization or group of people can only handle so much change at a time. This requires great discernment on the part of leaders to know when there is too much change occurring and it is best to wait for something new.

When an organization is in crisis mode

When a ship is sinking, fix the leak or bail some water, before you choose your next destination. When things are in crisis, is not the time to make a ton of changes. There may be needed changes to get things moving again, but catch your breath first, make sure a core of people is solid behind the vision, and take careful steps to plan intentional, helpful and needed change.

This isn’t intended as a checklist. I would never want to stop someone from making needed changes. I love change. But, I do want to encourage better change. I hope this helps.